Friday, April 29, 2011

A Lesson Learned

This is a repost from Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds:
From an interview with with Albert Mohler in TableTalk magazine:
Although there are many, is there one lesson the Lord has taught you that you would care to share with us?
I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other relationship to which the Christian is called. Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers. In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last. The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.
(HT: JT)

The Incredibles Sequel

Did you hear that they were casting for the live action version of The Incredibles?

Friday, April 22, 2011


“A paradoxical noun because it means beauty but is itself one of the ugliest words in the language. Same goes for the adjectival form pulchritudinous. They’re part of a tiny elite cadre of words that possess the very opposite of the qualities they denote. Diminutive, big, foreign, fancy (adjective), colloquialism, and monosyllabic are some others; there are at least a dozen more. Inviting your school-age kids to list as many paradoxical words as they can is a neat way to deepen their relationship to English and help them see that words are both symbols for things and very real things themselves.”

I found this brief, interesting paragraph in the Mac OS X Dictionary program when I looked up “Beauty” in the Thesaurus. It was cool enough to post. I love the thought that words are “both symbols for things and very real things themselves.”


visitor, originally uploaded by wenabell.

Wendy caught this bird on the deck yesterday. The snow had melted and the birds were out.

Does anyone know what kind of bird this is? We couldn't find our bird book today....

Grilling Equipment Recommendations

Recently, a buddy of mine told me that he wanted to buy a grill and asked me what he should get and if there were any accessories he should look for. The following were my recommendations for him.

The Grill

To begin with, there is only one charcoal grill: Weber. The line of Kettle style grills has various flavors, but the classic is the 22.5" Kettle Grill, which can be purchased at HomeDepot, Target, or most hardware stores. This is the same grill that I have had for the last ten years.

If money is less of a problem, the next step up the line is nice because the ash holder is cleaner to use. It is the same grill, but with a few extra features. There are Weber charcoal grills with more features than, but the price keeps going up. Really, the bottom of the line grill is perfectly acceptable for almost all home grilling.

However, lately, I have been dreaming of getting a different style grill, mostly because I like cooking for larger groups, and my beloved Weber is not big enough, even if I got the biggest (26.6" diameter, ash holder, and thermometer), which is too expensive. I would like to explore longer, slower, smokier, cooking, so I have my eyes on something new.

Accessories: A few essentials

Chimney Starter. This is an essential tool for starting a fire without lighter fluid. Never use lighter fluid. This is way better and it will last for years. Just add newspaper, charcoal, and fire. 

Regarding charcoal, you can get some at any grocery store. The best brand is Kingsford, in the blue bag. Don’t get any charcoal with lighter fluid built in—it is not needed and it screws up the taste.

Get a good grate brush and simple food tools. There are fancier and more expensive tool sets, and there are cheaper sets, but these have been my favorite. They are light-weight, which makes them easy to use and clean. They are sold by Target for Weber (already on the shelves), but you can see them at this Amazon link.

Grilling book. This is a great book to start with. It helps you understand how to start a fire, tell when the fire is hot enough, judge the cooking heat, and gives you tips on cooking, as well as a bunch of great recipes. Basically, you can not go wrong if you get a grilling cookbook by Jamie Purviance.

And of course, an Apple fanboy like me can’t live without a Weber iPhone app, which is only $4.99 and all the recipes are from Jamie’s books.
Finally, at least one glove is necessary. Cooking with live fire can get hot, and it is nice not to worry about burning your arm hairs. A glove is not essential, but handy. I have this one, but I want this one.

I use this stuff day in and day out (tonight were more barbecued buffalo wings; new recipe, super hot). Don’t be fooled by the weekend warrior grillers who have all the fanciest gadgets. Simple, light, clean, and easy so you put more energy into great food.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Douglas Wilson points his acerbic wit towards “seven memes for keeping Christians in their place” in a post today. All of them are good and worth thinking through. But, I found number six to be particularly humorous:
6. Biblical faith stifles and deadens the aesthetic soul. 
I will not say much here, except to note that I do not believe that the builders of Salisbury Cathedral, the composer of the Brandenburg concertos, the painter of The Night Watch, or the writer of Paradise Lost, have anything to apologize for in the thin shade of Kanye West, John Cage, Jackson Pollock, Walter Gropius, or Barry Manilow.
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

As he deals with us.

“Even so, we must face the fact that God’s interaction with his creation is not always constructive and restorative but is often shockingly destructive. It is true that the destruction always precedes some kind of renewal, but it is destruction all the same, and while we can come up with the comforting scenarios in which we do the same kind of thing — controlled burns in forest management and farming, for instance — it would be best not to allegorize too readily. God loves his creation, but he deals with it in ways that, to us, are sometimes indistinguishable from hatred. As he deals with us.”

— Alan Jacobs, “Blessed Are the Green of Heart,” in Wayfaring, p. 126

Sunday, April 10, 2011

We're bookish

OK, so if I were a cool artistic hipster type who had my own website and domain, I might create my own logotype. If I did that, I might try to come up with a tag line for our family, like “we’re bookish.” That seems like it would work for us. Just to see, I polled the family to see what books they currently were reading...

The Holy Bible, by the Holy Spirit through various authors
The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme

Oldest Daughter
The Holy Bible, by the Holy Spirit through various authors
The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane
The Treaty of Versailles
Emily Climbs, by L. M. Montgomery
Christianity and Liberalism, by J. Gresham Machen
The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow, by William Arden
Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

The Holy Bible, by the Holy Spirit through various authors
The Penultimate Peril, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12, by Lemony Snicket
Sir Gawain and the Greek Knight, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien
Henry V, by Shakespeare
The Chestnut King, by N. D. Wilson (again)
A Soldier’s Story, by Omar N. Bradley

Middle Daughter
The Holy Bible, by the Holy Spirit through various authors
The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
Emily of New Moon, by L. M. Montgomery
My Upmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers
Think, by John Piper

Youngest Daughter
The Holy Bible, by the Holy Spirit through various authors
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling
Dangerous Journey, by Oliver Hunkin

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Grilled Chicken, Smoked Gouda, and Arugula Panini

There is a delightful pleasure derived when serving a meal that is really enjoyed by those eating it. After last week’s rookie but successful run at a barbecued chicken cordon bleu sandwich, tonight we attempted a chicken sandwich that required a bit more finesse. It was fantastic.

I am not trying to overly spiritualize making a meal, but there is something right about Christians gathered together for fellowship over well cooked food; and not just the eating part, but spending the afternoon lighting the fire, preparing the ingredients, cooking and serving the food, all of which works together—in the ebb and flow of conversation—to be a Christian joy. OK, enough said.

Since last Saturday’s chicken sandwiches were a success, we thought we would try something new tonight with company: Grill chicken panini with smoked gouda and arugula. Preparing the food was amazingly simple, but the grilling did require a few techniques beyond slamming some meat on and flipping it over high heat with barbecue sauce until it’s burned.

Sorry, that sounds terribly derogatory. But, I have learned that the majority of grilling well is managing the fire. Learning to use just the right amount of briquettes, placing them to create zones of heat, and being patient for the amount of heat to raise (or lower) to the correct temperature zone is critical. Oh, and keep the lid on and don’t flip the food more than once or twice.

I pounded down the chicken breasts to less than 1/2" thick (smacking chicken with a cast iron pan is kind of fun), smeared them with olive oil, chili powder, kosher salt, and black pepper, and then grilled them over direct high heat for 3–5 minutes per side, lid closed as much as possible, and flipping them only once if possible. After taking the finished chicken inside, and while the fire burned itself towards low heat, I smeared olive oil on one side of a slice of tuscan bread, placed the chicken breasts, smoked gouda, and arugula on the bread, spread a mixture of mayonnaise and dijon mustard on the second slice of bread, and put the sandwiches together. I smeared more olive oil on the top of the second piece of bread and headed back out to the grill.

Once the fire was at low heat, I placed the sandwiches on the grill and covered them with a baking sheet and placed a large, heavy object (I used an empty cast iron dutch oven) on top of the baking sheet, squishing the sandwiches panini style. After about 3 minutes, I uncovered them, flipped the sandwiches, replaced the baking sheet and weight, and toasted the other side.

Frankly, they were fabulous. These are definitely going in the “we should do these again department.”

Oh, and did I say that because we had special friends over tonight, we topped off the evening with homemade cheesecake?

Heavenly, indeed.

Last Saturday's Barbecue

I was hungry last Saturday. Usually when I’m hungry that means I want to make something that would taste good. Well, that has turned out to be the main reason I grill. The solution for last Saturday’s problem was a grilled chicken sandwich concoction.

Since I was really hungry, I decided to grill two things at the same time. One was the buffalo wings I have mentioned before. The other was what I call chicken cordon bleu, but I have no idea if that is an accurate title.

I prepared 25 chicken wings with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper and put them in the fridge. I got the barbecue out, set it up, and lit the chimney with only about 3/4 the normal amount of briquettes. I knew that I needed only a medium heat fire, so no sense in using more Kingsford than needed.

While the fire was getting ready, I prepared the chicken breasts. I was hungry for wings and my chicken sandwich, but Wendy informed me that she wanted caesar salad with chicken. Three completely separate dinners? How to do that?

The wings were already started and easy enough to do. I decided to do double duty for the caesar salad and sandwiches by preparing the chicken breasts the same for each. I made a paste by mixing equal parts dijon mustard with olive oil, then added chili powder and black pepper. I smothered this paste all over eight chicken breasts and let them sit until the fire was ready.

I poured out the briquettes from the chimney and arranged the fire in the grill for two-zone heat. Then I grilled all the wings and breasts over medium heat with the lid closed as much as possible and only turning everything once.

I wrapped a bunch of bacon in foil and threw it on the grill when I pulled off the chicken. By this time the grill was at low heat, but it was enough to cook the bacon while I made the wings sauce. Wendy cut up a bunch of romaine lettuce and Chase set the table.

Once the bacon was done, we all prayed and began adding food to our plates. Wendy cut up some of the dijon-mustardy chicken into her caesar salad. Amazingly the hint of dijon on the chicken added a subtle taste to the caesar salad. Quite good.

For my chicken cordon bleu sandwich, I put a chicken breast on some tuscan bread, added bacon and swiss cheese. Then I slathered some dijon mustard on one side of the bread and toasted it all in the oven.

It was excellent. Sorry I don't have any pictures. You will just have to trust me.

By the way, if you are an astute reader, you will notice how much dijon mustard I used in preparing last Saturday's dinner. I am really enjoying dijon mustard lately and have found it be a very tasty ingredient.

If you read this far, you are either my mother, or a very nice person. Or both, of course. Hi, mom! But your main reward for reading this far, is to understand why I attempted to barbecue what we had tonight. Since my concocted sandwiches last week were a success, we tried to make panini sandwiches worthy of competition with Paneras.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Greater Need of a Theology of Suffering

I had a thought this morning as I was trying to wake up and get out of bed. Strange, I know.
“It seems likely that an unbiblical response to suffering in the Christian life is a much larger threat to the evangelical church—as undefined and squirmy as that term is—than Rob Bell’s heterodoxy. Therefore, I wish that the Christian leaders and pastors spent more time developing solid biblical and theological arguments for, winsomely preaching, and patiently walking people through a theology of suffering.”
Granted, there are those who do. But there are also those who do not. People distrusting God and walking away from him due to a poor understanding of suffering in the Christian life seems like a monumental task for pastors to get right. My esteem of pastors who do get it right is very high, indeed.

Alphabet Soup

Mom, and any one else stumbling by who knows my friend Joe, check out the latest video of his son and the alphabet.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Best of All Fairy Tales

This quote is from a blog post advertising a Christian artist conference, and furthermore, from The Jesus Storybook Bible, but it is a great quote nonetheless:
“The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne - everything - to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”
I love good fairy tales.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Seeing Sin Rightly

Two things came together yesterday to cause this post. The first was a paragraph quoted by Alan Jacobs on his common-book website, More than 95 Theses, and re-tweeted by my friend. Here’s the quote:
“The Lenten season is devoted especially to what the theologians call contrition, and so every day in Lent a prayer is said in which we ask God to give us ‘contrite hearts.’ Contrite, as you know, is a word translated from Latin, meaning crushed or pulverized. Now modern people complain that there is too much of that note in our Prayer Book. They do not wish their hearts to be pulverized, and they do not feel that they can sincerely say that they are ‘miserable offenders.’ I once knew a regular churchgoer who never repeated the words, ‘the burden of them (i.e. his sins) is intolerable’, because he did not feel that they were intolerable. But he was not understanding the words. I think the Prayer Book is very seldom talking primarily about our feelings; that is (I think) the first mistake we’re apt to make about these words ‘we are miserable offenders.’ I do not think whether we are feeling miserable or not matters. I think it is using the word miserable in the old sense — meaning an object of pity. That a person can be a proper object of pity when he is not feeling miserable, you can easily understand if you imagine yourself looking down from a height on two crowded express trains that are traveling towards one another along the same line at 60 miles an hour. You can see that in forty seconds there will be a head-on collision. I think it would be very natural to say about the passengers of these trains, that they were objects of pity. This would not mean that they felt miserable themselves; but they would certainly be proper objects of pity. I think that is the sense in which to take the word ‘miserable.’ The Prayer Book does not mean that we should feel miserable but that if we could see things from a sufficient height above we should all realize that we are in fact proper objects of pity.”
While this quote is really directed at the reception of the Prayer Book, what is says about modern people is worth noting. How much of the reality that modern people “do not wish their hearts to be pulverized,” and “do not feel that they can sincerely say that they are ‘miserable offenders’” is because we, modern people, do not feel the horror, yes, horror of sin.

If a man lusts in his heart, what are the consequences? If a man yells at his children or struggles with pride or wastes time when he should be working or is not grateful to the Lord for all the good gifts he has received, how does he feel the weight, the significance of his sin?

If a woman gossips to her friends or doesn’t return the five dollars the clerk mistakenly gave her at the checkout counter or doesn’t honor her husband or isn’t thankful that the Lord has sustained her family for another day, how does she feel the force of her sin?

The reality, I think, for Christians in this modern era, is that we don’t, no, we can’t, comprehend the hideousness, the disgust, awfulness of our sin, until we understand that sin is hideous, disgusting, and awful. How often have you heard someone cluck about so-and-so, “He won’t really wake-up until he hits bottom”? The point is that modern people seemingly have to be confronted with dire consequences of sin before they realize the seriousness of the sin. A woman has to divorce her husband before he realizes that his addiction to pornography is hideous. A man has to go to jail before he realizes that cheating on taxes is a breaking of Jesus’ command.

The second thing was reading from the first chapter of Leviticus. Note the use of the personal pronouns in these verses.
The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. 
“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire” (Leviticus 1:1–7).
What shocked me was that the person who leads the male animal from the herd to the tent of meeting is the sinner. The person who lays his hands on the head of that animal is the sinner. The person who takes the knife in his hand and with a nervous jerk tries to slice the animal’s throat, feeling its warms blood spill out over his hands and the animal jump and kick and try to get free, all the while getting weaker as its life-blood drains away into the priests pot.

He shall kill the bull before the Lord.

I had previously thought the priest did all the killing. How do I know it is the sinner and not the priest? Because of the pronouns. “He shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priest shall bring the blood….” In the first paragraph God says, “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…. If his offering is a burnt offering….He shall bring it to the entrance…, that he may be accepted….He shall lay his hand on the head….Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord.”

Aaron’s sons aren’t doing the killing, they are catching the blood and flinging it against the alter, but the sinner is doing the slaughter. Keep reading in this chapter and see how in each case the sinner kills the animal, except for turtledoves and pigeons, where the priest twists off its head. (I talked with the BCS OT professor and he tentatively agreed with me. Granted, Hebrew pronouns can be difficult, but it seems that the sinner leads the animal, kills it, and from then on the priests do all the rest of the ritual work.)

When was the last time you slit an animal’s throat?

So, putting these things together, it seems that the sacrificial system had a built-in way to help people feel the hideousness, the disgust, the awfulness, the weight of sin, in a way we moderns can’t comprehend. Some animal really had to die when they committed sin.

The truth, for a New Testament Christian, is that someone had to die when we sin as well. This One’s death was hideous, disgusting, and awful. The weight of his death brought darkness upon the earth for hours and tore the veil between the people and the Holy of Holies. The weight of his death broke open graves and caused the dead to walk alive. The force of his death changed the reality of the universe from that point forward. His death is the determining factor for the fate of humanity.

Jesus is the spotless lamb upon whom believing Christians placed their hands and drew the knife across his throat.

Praise God.

Hate sin.